Friday, January 30, 2009

Stuff White People Like and Choosing Friends Carefully

I've never visited the blog, "Stuff White People Like," despite reading in newsgroups/email threads that the site's hysterically funny. I never took a look because I figured I know what white people like. I'm an older black chick who grew up in the 60s, went to boarding school with not just regular white people but rich white people in the 70s, and frustrated my mother by having white friends that I went out with in college.

My mother would warn me, former social worker who'd read studies on black people written by white people and child of Louisiana in the 30s and 40s that she was, "You've got to be careful being friends with white people. You never know when they're writing a book about you." She meant to protect me from exploitation during a time when white people and black people were rarely genuinely friends.

So, why do I need a site about stuff white people like when I've worked with them, studied with them, lived among them, even with them?

But this Canadian guy, Christian Lander, who started the blog and now has a book out is funny. I saw him on CNN today. He explained how he marketed his blog and its popularity grew. And, I confess, a lot of what he said has the old ring of truth. Lander's venture reminds me of "How to Rent a Negro," which some people think may become popular again in the age of Obama, and the white people who neglected to get black friends before Obamamania will want some Negroes on speed dial now.

Lander's hierarchy of friends for white people that he talks about with CNN amused me.
It's important to have black friends, but where do gay friends fitinto the rainbow of white friends? Lander says, "It is white person law that if you are able to acquire a friend from every nation and race on Earth, you are officially declared not racist. Done. ... So white people are out there. They are trying to collect friends from everywhere. It's not easy but there are rankings. There are ways to get friends that are more elite. Black friends are very, very important but if somehow you can find a gay black friend you have reached the pinnacle. ... It's sort of like a quarterback who can play linebacker, a once in a lifetime type friend. (Lander on CNN)
And a gay black friend who is a father is like finding a unicorn, he says. Lander asserts this kind of uniqueness is something marketable to whites, and so if you're a very unique black friend, work it.
If you are this person, do not just dole out your friendship to white people easily. Only give to those who can give you much in return. ... That's what this book is about. It's about how you can exploit white people for personal gain. How to get a ride to the airport. How to get them to paint your house. How to get them to help you move. How take advantage of all the massive, massive resources white people control. (Lander on CNN)
Here's the full list of stuff white people like from Lander's website: list.

If you're black and see that you like lots of the same things white people like, do not be alarmed. Black people liking what white people like is the result of having to learn white culture in order to survive, especially if they wanted to surpass life in the hood. It's also the result of being educated to believe that white culture is superior to black culture, which is one of the reasons, if you're an educated African-American, you may have felt at some point you needed to also like classical music. Enjoying the fruits of "superior culture" suggests you too are superior. Liking only Motown seemed to say "You're an ordinary black person," something akin to not having class.

Lander says some white people also have to pretend they like classical music.

---Begin Tangent Here---
The fight over Beethoven:

I do actually like many classical composers, however. And, people, let's remember a big name in classical musical is Beethoven, a mulatto. There are white people pissed off that black people say Beethoven was a Negro because they like Beethoven want Beethoven to remain white like them.

I think it's the same group that spends years doing meticulously warped research to prove Ethiopians are actually Caucasian in order to offset any lesson that western civilization traces itself back to the Greeks loving Ethiopian culture, and so the greatness that is western civilization has its roots in African culture. You can guess the motivation behind this movement to declare Beethoven, Ethiopians, Egypt etc. white as well as to rail against people who teach tolerance within the context of historical facts about European aggression. They claim it's part of a plot to make white people feel guilty when white people should rejoice in their heritage as conquerors and being inherently superior to other ethnic groups, especially black people for some reason.

Whether Beethoven was all white or part black, who gives a significant damn? Until they dig him up and test his DNA, I'm saying he was mulatto just to piss off those white people who embrace victimhood under false pretenses. White people don't have to learn anything about black people if they want to know it, which is a sign of the privilege some deny. And there's a certain kind of white person who is virulently opposed to learning anything that might make him or her recognize the master race is a myth.

Some others, while not opposed to learning about other cultures and who are not rabidly racist, remain ignorant of blackness to their own detriment. In this case I'm thinking of poetry critics who gave thumbs down to Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem "Praise Song for the Day" and missed the boat analyzing it because they only know about European culture and white ideas of what makes good poetry, nothing of African culture because subconsciously they don't believe African culture has value.
---End of tangent---

Lander's book and blog about stuff white people like are clever humor, but I'm sure there's some white person out there who won't get it or doesn't understand the concept of political correctness and so seeks offenses where there are none or hates what they think tolerance means and so is whining, "It's not fair! Isn't Lander's book stereotyping white people the same way blacks have been stereotyped?"

No, it's not the same. And there are lots of sociological and political reasons for why it's not the same, but I won't go into that now. It's too early in the morning, and I haven't had my cup of Southern Pecan gourmet coffee. Coffee is one of those things on Lander's list of stuff white people like, but I love java anyway.

From the discussions I've read on this book in groups, it seems to be mostly white people who've found the site and like it. Something about it resonates, I guess, especially with younger white people.

The CNN reporter who interviewed Landers says he's half white and perhaps he can both collect friends from other cultures to show he's hip while exploiting white people as the "black" friend. He says in jest that Lander's book has given him a new perspective.

I'm not half white and know I've been the "black" friend sometimes that makes some whites say "I'm not racist. One of my best friends is black," but generally those types of white people aren't actual friends, no matter what they say. They don't know you can see their motivation.

However, I have met some whites who say bluntly, "I'm trying to get a better understanding of people here. I want to be your friend." I dig those. They're up front and authentic. We can have an honest discussion, agree or disagree, because they really do want a friend, not a conversation piece.

You can tell the difference between a person who likes you for you and a person who simply likes the idea of knowing you or people like you. Good friends don't have agendas.


Suzanne said...

Great post, as always. And now I will admit that I did not know that Beethoven was mulatto. Partly that is because I do not know much about Beethoven other than "Ode to Joy," which I do like. Unless that is Mozart. Arg. I am failing my white person culture test. :) Probably because I grew up as what I affectionately call "Jewish white trash" and thus my parents did not listen to classical music or pretend to enjoy it. Anyway...

Vérité Parlant said...

Thanks, Suzanne. I was taught Beethoven was part-black, but as you see from the post, some people dispute it.

What! You were never forced to listen to the classics so you could properly educated? LOL

And look, you turned out smart and wonderful anyway.